Ho Ho Ho for the Holiday$

September 17, 2018|Posted in: Uncategorized

So this past weekend I found myself shopping in a major retail store (I won’t tell you the name, but it rhymes with Sprawl Mart…) and as soon as I walked in the door, I got hit with a massive display of Christmas decorations.

My first thought when seeing that (well, actually my second thought: my first thought was “Why did I come here, again?”) was something along the lines of what you’re probably thinking right now: “Are you kidding me? It’s a month and a half until HALLOWEEN! And you’re dragging this stuff out NOW?”

But almost as soon as thought that, I noticed something else. People in line to check out. People in line to check out … with Christmas decorations in their carts.

We have met the enemy. And he is us.

We rail at the retailers for jumping the gun, pushing the season, all that … but I’m not sure it’s that simple: they wouldn’t be putting out the displays this early if somebody wasn’t BUYING this stuff this early. So I think as consumers, we have to shoulder some of the blame.

On the other hand, it could be argued that we wouldn’t buy the stuff early if they didn’t put it on display. There’s a bit of a “chicken-or-the-egg” thing going on here, I would say.

“Black Friday” was a thing long before it was burned into our collective consumer consciousness. It was originally a term tossed around within retail circles that indicated the point where most stores actually made it into the black for the year: retailers, at the time, were functioning at a deficit for 11/12 of the year. They made their profit during the holiday season, most specifically on the day after Thanksgiving since the majority of people had the day off work.

That, of course, was before the internet. As far as I can tell, the web brought two significant changes to holiday shopping: one, retailers had a more universal and cost-effective way to get their advertising specials in front of people. Not only could they start touting their Black Friday sales weeks earlier, they could even INVENT new shopping days, like Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday.

That last one there is highly ironic: using online resources to build awareness of day you’re not supposed to be shopping online. Which brings us to the other change wrought by the internet–eCommerce itself. Holiday sales–how they actually quantify which sales in October are “holiday” sales, I don’t know–but holiday sales in 2016 were nearly $670 billion; over $115 billion of that came from online sales.

With that in mind, I suppose it’s a bit hard to totally condemn retailers for wanting to prime the pump, as it were, by getting customers in the Christmas spirit as soon as possible. But it might be working against them: a poll by showed that nearly 75% of shoppers were more annoyed by an increasingly advanced holiday shopping season. Over half of those polled thought that the displays and such shouldn’t appear until around Thanksgiving–in other words, there is nostalgia for the (real or perceived) “good ol’ days,” when Black Friday meant something, doggone it! Why, when I was your age, we had to wait until nearly December before we started hanging lights! We got coal for Christmas even when we’d been good–and we were happy to get it! We …

Sorry. Channeling my great-uncle Edgar there for a second …

Thing is, yeah, internet might have changed shopping habits, but that’s all the more reason we don’t NEED plastic snowmen and inflatable Rudolphs in the stores before the football season even starts. I mean, I live about the most unorthodox lifestyle you can think of, and I still believe most Americans would rather stay home on Thanksgiving, spending the time with family and friends rather than hunting for parking spaces and listening to one more bad rendition of “pah rum pah pum pum.”

But I’m probably wrong. Because again, the Christmas products wouldn’t appear if people weren’t buying them. We have met the enemy …

Like how I came full-circle on that one?